The Gravedigger’s Daughter

Another quick bit of flash fiction – again inspired by the prompts from Chuck here. I was initially disappointed by the title I got, but it kind of forced me to write something… Again pretty throwaway, but I had already written over 1800 words of another story today

The Gravedigger’s Daughter

I worked hard the whole month after mama died. Old mister Jenks offered me a couple of days off but work kept me focused. Well it would have if it wasn’t for Maeve, with her long red hair, green eyes, freckles, and blue dress which showed a tantalising glimpse of pointy heeled boot when she stepped off the boardwalk.

Still I mainly concentrated on cooling and polishing the brass work, stretching the leather, and minding, cleaning, and feeding the horses.

Moustache Eddie couldn’t believe it when he asked me after catching me watching Maeve one too many times.

“You can’t really be interested in her boy.” He drawled, before spitting out a wad of exhausted chewing tobacco into the corner of the stable. “She’s a queer girl, I swear she’s only got eyes for her daddy, and he’s certainly got eyes for any fella looks at her.”

I ended the conversation with a turn back to my work. I enjoyed it, simple repetitive but requiring concentration and physical effort.

One evening two days after the unsuccessful conversation with Eddie, I went along to the Hanging Indian for a beer. Some days I found it hard to go home alone. Stansfield the owner was there with his paunch and his self satisfied smile. I asked for a beer and retired to a table in the corner, one that didn’t as far as I knew have a regular group at it. Not having a great thirst for either alcohol or sarcastic bar owners I didn’t frequent the establishment that often so I wasn’t sure.

When the beer had been reduced to about half the glass there was a disturbance on the other side of the room. I had been slowly reading my way through the Sacramento paper with the aid of a ruler, and didn’t really notice what was happening until a woman was screaming and a man in an expensive dark blue East Coast suit was careening backwards in my direction. I stood up and stepped back with the newspaper in one hand and my beer and ruler in the other; allowing the man to smack into the heavy round table and slide to the floor.

The woman who had been screaming was Linette. She came striding towards the man in the blue suit rubbing the first she had made with her other hand. Without a word she raised a pointed boot and landed it in his crotch, he yelped and vomited all over her leg.

Not liking confrontation I decided it was time to leave. I swallowed the rest of my beer and planted the empty glass on the bar with the paper and ruler.

I walked out onto the boardwalk and nearly crashed straight into Maeve, luckily she swung to one side and I slipped and staggered onto the dirt road. Damn I wasn’t even drunk and now she would think I was just another alcoholic no good normal man. I turned round and she was walking away almost as if she hadn’t noticed me.

I decided to go for a walk around town, it was too early to go home yet the heat of the day hadn’t dissipated and the house could get mighty hot.

I swear I wasn’t heading for their house but after about ten minutes I was walking past the cemetery and the little clapboard church. It was getting dark now and I saw shadows moving against the light from a downstairs window in the house. They looked vigorous and I could hear shouting. I looked around, no one to see me so I crept quietly up to the green light in the window.
The first thing I heard was Mister Brennan the gravedigger shouting.

“You greedy bitch, I tole you about your appetites, you gonna get us caught.” There was a sound like the slap of leather on cloth, like when my mama used to beat me. I stepped closer ducking down below the sill and peered in.

“No daddy, I’m sorry I couldn’t help it. I just have this terrible hunger, like my stomach is empty.” She was sobbing between words and I could see her leaning over a long low table bent forward while her daddy was stood legs akimbo a broad leather belt in his hand about to pull back for another lash.

At the same moment I stood and cried out to stop him, I saw what she was leaning over. The greenish light from the lamp in the corner of the room made it seem even more sickening. There was a corpse laid out on the table, a woman, my mama naked, with a what looked like bites ripped out of her torso and arm. Mister Brennan and Maeve both turned round started by my shout, she had a strip of flesh hanging from her lips. I felt my bowls loosen and my gorge rise in my throat but it was impossible to move.